Fleet News

Contract hire survey: four-wheel drive vehicles

TODAY'S breed of four-wheel drive vehicles needs to blend off-road ability with acceptable road manners. Our expert leasing panel looks at the current sector favourites.

Have a think back to your school days. If they were anything like mine, the class was generally split into three distinct groups: the cool kids, the squares and those who floated between the two, generally trying to be cool but failing, though never quite attaining geek status.

Oddly enough, the situation is much the same in the large off-roader market. On the one hand there are the cool cars – the lifestyle sports utility vehicles that are all about street credibility. They look handsome and are chosen for their shiny premium sector badges. In this respect, cars such as the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz M-class and the new Volvo XC90 are the proverbial leaders of the pack.

However, concessions to maximise their ability on Tarmac have dulled their off-road prowess. Cool in the right situation, they will lose some of their swagger when the going gets very muddy or rocky. That's when the workhorses really get going. And that means the Land Rover Discovery and Toyota Land Cruiser. It might be unfair to call them square, but in this company they do not have the street credibility in the mock-tudor towns of the south-east of the BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo.

While those cars are hanging on street corners with the girls, the Land Rover and Toyota will be doing their homework: getting off-road using their excellent traction and wheel articulation to the full.

For those that need the genuine article, these two cars do the job.

In the middle is the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which manages to straddle both camps. It has the badge and the style as well as being adequate on and off-road. So when choosing a large 4x4, context is very important. In this panel, we have chosen all cars with diesel engines around the 2.5 to 3.0-litre mark, and automatic gearboxes, as some, like the ML270 CDI, Grand Cherokee Overland 2.7 and XC90 2.4 D5 do not have the option of a manual. As a result, all are high on CO2 emissions and most are strong on residuals.

The leasing panel speaks:

Michael Beet
Sales director, Inchcape Fleet Solutions
'These vehicles are not traditional 'mud pluggers' as the new breed of buyer has more of an interest in 'on-road' ability. The emphasis is on safety and looking good – a premium sport utility vehicle can provide all the safety and comfort of an MPV, and with arguably more style. There is fierce competition due to plenty of good models, but there will be limited uptake, due to high CO2 emissions and monthly rentals.'

Andrew Cope
Managing director, Zenith Vehicle Contracts
'The arrival of the Volvo XC90 will surely change the way that manufacturers view this sector of the market. Until now, most 4x4s have offered little extra space or practicality when compared with their saloon- based estate counterparts. The X5 was the benchmark in this sector, proving that a 4x4 can be car-like, but it has taken the XC90 to blend the qualities of the X5 with the practicality of an MPV.'

Tracy McMahon
Pricing manager, Lloyds TSB autolease
'This sector now attracts different types of people. Families are drawn to 4x4s for their practicality, size and safety. Others are attracted to their off-road capabilities and ability as good tow cars. The equipment levels vary with the Volvo XC90, Toyota Land Cruiser and Jeep Grand Cherokee being the best equipped. However, drivers could be attracted to the outstanding performance and status of the BMW X5.'

Richard Schooling
General manager sales operations, Alphabet
'This sector's running costs tend to be offset by good residual values thanks to buoyant ex-fleet demand among private buyers. Most users want macho looks with sporty handling, as exemplified by the dynamic BMW X5. The others are a more complicated fleet proposition – better off road, less satisfactory on it but, ironically, more likely to be marked down at disposal time on suspicion of rough usage.'

David Harnett
Head of LeasePlan Fleetline
'All of the vehicles in this sector are undoubtedly very luxurious and spacious and offer the driver exclusivity on the road. The BMW has set the standards for others to follow in a sector that was previously dominated with the traditional Land Rover, Toyota and Jeep options. However, you have to be a die hard fan because all of the models surveyed are in the highest bracket for benefit-in- kind taxation.'

Average rental rates (per month)
Mercedes-Benz £571
Land Rover £595
Volvo £609
Jeep £622
Toyota £626
BMW £650

  • Average based on results from our leasing panel

    Average maintenance costs (3years/60,000 miles)
    Volvo £2,587
    Toyota £2,704
    Jeep £2,704
    Land Rover £2,778
    BMW £2,931
    Mercedes-Benz £3,212

  • Average based on results from our leasing panel

    RV forecasts (3years/60,000 miles)
    BMW £14,670/43%
    Mercedes-Benz £13,316/44%
    Volvo £12,772/42%
    Toyota £11,960/37%
    Land Rover £10,592/34%
    Jeep £10,544/34%

  • Average based on results from our leasing panel

    CO2 Emissions (g/km) and tax band
    Volvo 242/35%
    Mercedes-Benz 250/35%
    Jeep 255/35%
    BMW 259/35%
    Toyota 277/35%
    Land Rover 284/35%

  • Source: Vehicle Certification Agency (2003/04 tax year)

    Combined mpg Volvo 31.0
    Mercedes-Benz 29.7
    BMW 29.1
    Jeep 29.1
    Land Rover 27.4
    Toyota 27.2

  • Source: Vehicle Certification Agency

    BMW X5 3.0d auto

    ##X52003--none##

    Harnett: 'Continues to set the standards. It is imposing on the road, offers exclusivity and also gives saloon car handling. Residuals are rock solid, rentals are good which means the X5 will be at the top of everyone's wish list.'
    Beet: 'Quiet and relaxing over long distances, the X5 compares favourably to a 5- series for control and comfort.'
    McMahon: The BMW has remained the benchmark in this class despite many challenges from other manufacturers. Like the Volvo, the X5 does not have a low gear ratio and is better on Tarmac than for serious off-road use. It is definitely its on-road refinement that most buyers will be attracted to.'
    Cope: 'The BMW X5 is the car to beat with the best performance and the most car-like handling of the group. Residuals are also the best, although it is the most expensive of the bunch.'
    Schooling: 'A highly desirable combination – exciting on the road and more than capable off it. It's also excellent value at just £40 a month more than the M-class, despite the X5's £3,500 premium on P11d.'

    Average monthly rental £650
    P11D price £34,180
    Average net price £29,791
    Average maintenance £2,931
    Average RV £14,670/43%

    Rental Rates Inchcape £733.91
    Zenith £689.18
    Alphabet £601.04
    LeasePlan £593.55
    Lloyds TSB autolease £630.24

    2003 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £2,632/£4,785
    2003 VED bill: £160

    Jeep Grand Cherokee 2.7 CRD Overland auto

    ##Overland--none##

    Beet: 'Fantastic off-road, with quick acceleration. The interior is well-equipped with plenty of space. It holds its value well, but is costly to run and rivals are far better on-road.'
    McMahon: 'Looks the part and has few shortcomings off-road. The earlier engines were noisy but from 2002 onwards the Mercedes-Benz-sourced engine is much quieter with greater performance. Equipment levels are high, including leather options, and the seats are extremely comfortable.'
    Cope: 'The least economical here, but compensates by being one of the cheapest to lease. Popularity is waning due to being too Americanised for some tastes.'
    Schooling: 'Compared to the showy V8 versions, the new diesel Jeep is a more sensible fleet choice. It narrowly loses out to the Discovery on wholelife costs and cabin room.'
    Harnett: 'Always the obvious choice if a Range Rover was just over your budget. However, in recent years it has been matched and then bettered by the newcomers which means it now looks a little tired and dated. Fuel economy means this really is not a viable option.'

    Average monthly rental £622
    P11D price £31,310
    Average net price £26,298
    Average maintenance £2,704
    Average RV £10,544/34%

    Rental Rates<
    Inchcape £679.43
    Zenith £609.38
    Alphabet £602.67
    LeasePlan £605.64
    Lloyds TSB autolease £611.89

    2003 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £2,411/£4,383
    2003 VED bill; £160

    Land Rover Discovery 2.5 Td5 XS auto

    ##LRDiscovery--none##

    McMahon: 'This is more of an off-road vehicle than the X5 and XC90 and will appeal to a different type of person. It still has a huge following and the latest model, launched last year, features fresh front-end styling similar to the Range Rover. Second most competitive on rentals but is let down by slow performance.'
    Cope: 'Despite the recent facelift, Discovery is very long in the tooth and a new model (with seven seats) is due in 2004. Not as car-like as the class leaders, but by far the best off-road.'
    Schooling: 'For many looking for a serious on/off-roader, the Land Rover badge will tip the scales against the Toyota or Jeep. Now better on Tarmac but needs more oomph to be really satisfying.'
    Harnett: 'Discovery has been around for a number of years and despite several facelifts it still looks dated compared to the X5 and XC90. It has good all-round capability but sensible buyers will wait for next year's new model.'
    Beet: 'An excellent off-roader but beginning to show its age. The cabin doesn't have the best of layouts, although there is a choice of five or seven seats. Expensive to run and doesn't hold its value too well.'

    Average monthly rental £595
    P11D price £31,305
    Average net price £25,693
    Average maintenance £2,778
    Average RV £10,592/34%

    Rental Rates
    Inchcape £622.04
    Zenith £609.54
    Alphabet £573.61
    LeasePlan £577.71
    Lloyds TSB autolease £591.22

    2003 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £2,410/£4,383
    2003 VED bill: £160

    Mercedes-Benz ML270 CDI auto

    ##ML270test--none##

    Cope: 'The badge counts in its favour and, unusually for the marque, the list price is the lowest, which will help the benefit-in-kind. Less car-like and less fashionable than the X5, but still popular.'
    Schooling: 'Some say the ML feels a bit traditional although there are many who say that's how a new Mercedes should feel! It's not a driver's car like the X5 or as at home off-road as the Toyota but they have pitched it perfectly.'
    Harnett: 'The first to challenge the Jeep and the Discovery and set new standards. Has been updated but still suffers from the poor build quality associated with its production in America.'
    Beet: 'An early release that was in danger of losing its edge, hence the recent facelift. Has real all-terrain ability, and quality has been greatly improved, although the trim and handling are not quite what you would expect.'
    McMahon: 'No doubt the classiest 4x4 in this group, Mercedes was one of the first to capitalize on the rise in demand for luxury four-wheel drives. The ML has the lowest rentals caused by high residuals and one of the lowest net prices in this group.'

    Average monthly rental £571
    P11D price £30,595
    Average net price £26,277
    Average maintenance £3,212
    Average RV £13,316/44%

    Rental Rates
    Inchcape £591.76
    Zenith £619.84
    Alphabet £573.61
    LeasePlan £523.16
    Lloyds TSB autolease £546.26

    2003 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £2,356/£4,283
    2003 VED bill: £160

    Toyota Land Cruiser 3.0 D-4D LC4 auto

    ##LandCruiser2003--none##

    Harnett: 'Similar to the Discovery, it has its followers but does not appeal to the masses. Its off-road ability is unquestionable, however it looks dated next to its competitors. The Land Cruiser is one for the specialist and doesn't really make an impact against the new breed.'
    Beet: 'The new launch keeps the powerful diesel engine from the outgoing range, which can't be matched off-road. It has an increased emphasis on styling to attract the new breed of SUV purchasers.'
    McMahon: 'Equipment levels are generous: this is the only 4x4 that has satellite navigation as standard. It also has eight seats, all with three-point seatbelts which none of the other 4x4s have, making it extremely attractive to large families. Has the second-highest rentals and the second-highest tax charge.'
    Cope: 'Strong off-road credentials, chunky looks and bulletproof reliability ensures its place outside the school gates.'
    Schooling: 'The latest update has added some welcome refinement . Good for serious 4x4 activities but not a natural choice for the lifestyle set, especially as the tax charge is almost the same as the more desirable X5.'

    Average monthly rental £626
    P11D price £32,310
    Average net price £27,652
    Average maintenance £2,704
    Average RV £11,961/37%

    Rental Rates
    Inchcape £658.97
    Zenith £623.11
    Alphabet £633.66
    LeasePlan £574.22
    Lloyds TSB autolease £642.18

    2003 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £2,488/£4,523
    2003 VED bill: £160

    Volvo XC90 2.4 D5 SE Geartronic

    ##XC902003--none##

    Schooling: 'It's bold of Volvo to move into the macho 4x4 arena with a car billed as friendly and versatile but there's no denying the strength of the XC90's concept, or its execution. Huge used potential, hence strong predicted RVs.'
    Harnett: 'Has taken this sector by storm. It has put up a serious challenge to the X5 and has the additional benefit of seven seats as standard. Current long lead-times mean that residuals are outstanding.'
    Beet: 'Although it is slower than average and doesn't have the power of its rivals, the new XC90's strengthened chassis means it will provide a good, all-road driving experience.'
    McMahon: 'Priced more competitively than the BMW and has a better equipment level. Volvo has done a brilliant job as they've found space for seven seats. The XC90 has the lowest CO2 emissions in this group.'
    Cope: 'New kid on the block and receiving rave reviews across the board. The first 4x4 to fuse off-road style with MPV practicality. High demand, and limited supply will ensure rock- solid residual values.'

    Average monthly rental £609
    P11D price £31,465
    Average net price £27,652
    Average maintenance £2,587
    Average RV £12,772/42%

    Rental Rates
    Inchcape £654.78
    Zenith £608.43
    Alphabet £593.56
    LeasePlan £576.65
    Lloyds TSB autolease £610.77

    2003 CO2 BIK tax bill (22%/40%): £2,423/£4,405
    2003 VED bill: £160

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